Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that adversely affects about 1 per cent of the global population. It is commonly described as someone being delusional, paranoid, and hallucinating, but that’s only one type of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia can occur at any age, but it tends to first progress between adolescence and early adulthood, normally between the ages of 16 – 30 years. It rarely occurs before adolescence or after age 45. It is more likely to worsen if left untreated. The illness itself cannot be cured but with sufficient medication, the symptoms can be controlled. Although, there is no clear explanation for this condition, there are several risk factors which makes an individual more prone to its development. Schizophrenia risk factors may be accounted for under three broad categories of genetics, brain chemistry and structure, and environmental factors.
Genetic Risk Factors
1. Genetics. There is a high chance that if an individual has a family history of schizophrenia in their bloodline, that person is more likely to develop it. A child whose parent has schizophrenia has about a 10 per cent chance of developing schizophrenia themselves. Scientists have no doubt that it has a genetic component. However, heredity does not always explain all cases of schizophrenia since approximately 60% of people with schizophrenia have no close relatives with the illness. There is also evidence to support the fact that if the child’s father is significantly older than the mother, he or she might develop the disorder. This could be because of a greater chance of genetic mutations in the sperm which is evidently passed on to the offspring. In addition, factors such as prenatal difficulties like viral infections and perinatal complications appear to influence the development of schizophrenia.
Brain Risk Factors
2. Brain Chemistry and Structure. It has been shown that schizophrenia is connected to a rare disparity of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that act as messengers between nerve cells. More so, the brain chemicals such as dopamine and glutamine are said to be involved. Studies assume that schizophrenia results when a certain gene that is vital in making important brain chemicals fails. This problem may affect the part of the brain responsible for developing higher functioning skills which is why the condition usually surfaces during the teen years and early adulthood period of development.
Many studies of people with schizophrenia have found irregularities in brain structure. In some minimal but possibly significant ways, the brains of people with schizophrenia look different than those of healthy people. However, these abnormalities are subtle and do not always occur in all schizophrenics. Research is always on-going especially since there is no known cause, or as a matter of fact one cause believed to be solely responsible for the disorder.
Environmental Risk Factors
3. Environmental Factors. Scientists think interactions between genes and the environment are necessary for schizophrenia to develop. Many environmental factors may be responsible such as contact with viruses or malnutrition before birth and problems during birth. Factors that increase exposure to viruses include living in urban surroundings or being a part of large family has been linked with higher danger for schizophrenia. Also, during maternal growth, birth complications such as a baby experiencing lack of oxygen during delivery may be linked to schizophrenia. Evidence also suggests that childhood trauma of such as sexual and physical abuse may play a role in someone developing the disorder.
The above aren’t necessarily direct or sole causes of schizophrenia but just factors that increase the risk of the developing schizophrenia.